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Allison: Red Bull dominance hasn't spoiled return to F1 frontline

Mercedes technical director James Allison has said the hard knocks of being beaten by Red Bull have not stopped his return to the Formula 1 frontline being fun.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Allison came back to the technical director role last year as part of a job swap with Mike Elliott undertaken to help Mercedes get back to the front of F1. 

Although the German manufacturer was unable to stop world champion Red Bull roaring to another title double as it won all but one grand prix last year, Allison is adamant there are a lot of elements of the job that enthused him. 

And critical to the enjoyment was having around him fellow employees who embrace the challenge and are ready to do all it takes to ensure Mercedes can deliver an uplift in form. 

“You say it's no fun, actually it's lots of fun,” said Allison, reflecting on the experience of seeing rival Red Bull dominating so much.

“It isn't as much fun as winning, that's definitely true, but you have to sort of love the whole of the sport. It involves taking your licks when you haven't done a good enough job.” 

Allision also said just as Red Bull never gave up and put plans in place to recover when it endured a fallow period as Mercedes was dominant, so the same has to happen for his own squad right now. 

James Allison, Technical Director, Mercedes-AMG

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

James Allison, Technical Director, Mercedes-AMG

“I think one of the things to admire about Red Bull's current performance is that they stuck gamely to their task in quite a long period in the wilderness,” he said.

“They are now enjoying the fruits of that well-placed labour. It's far from unenjoyable being in that position, as long as the team is collectively confident that it's making the right moves to try to re-establish itself as a force to be reckoned with. There's loads and loads of fun to be had in that.” 

Allison admitted that progress is never straightforward in F1, but as long as the long-term trend is intact then he has every reason to be bullish.

“It's always a roller coaster of getting your hopes up, being slapped down a bit by the racing gods and then gathering your skirts again to have another push,” he said.

“I hope that that journey upwards is steep and strong and secure, but it will be great fun trying to drive it at whatever pace we can to give our rivals a good old fight.”

PLUS: The asymptotic theory that should give F1 fans hope for a closer 2024 season

Mercedes has been working on a major revamp of its F1 car design in a bid to address the problems that have hampered Lewis Hamilton and George Russell over the past two years.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

While there are positive indicators coming out of early simulator running of the new car, Allison remains cautious about where things stack up until he sees what rivals have been able to do. 

“I don't think any team has ever been anything other than apprehensive at this time of year, alongside excited or whatever,” he said. “You'd have to be psychotic to be bullishly confident because you only know one side of the equation, which is what you've done.  

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“There have been years where you run a car for the first time and the drivers sort of got out and said: ‘Well spend your bonus, this is a brilliant one.’ 

“But even then, you don't really believe it until you get to the track and start using it in anger and everyone else is alongside you.”   

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